Fears promote frequency of side effects

A hamburg study on women with breast cancer proves: those who expect side effects of drug therapy will suffer more often and more.

Fears promote frequency of side effects

The expectation seems to have a very large influence on the frequency and severity of side effects of drug treatment after breast cancer surgery. According to a new study by the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf, side effects are almost twice as common if patients already fear them before the start of treatment.

A research group led by Prof. dr. Yvonne Nestoriuc from the Institute and Polyclinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) had interviewed 111 women in the breast cancer center of the University of Marburg, who were treated with medication after a breast cancer operation. The interviews were conducted before the start of hormone therapy, after 3 months and after 2 years.

The result: Women who had expected side effects even before the start of treatment reported almost twice as many side effects as women who had a positive expectation of postoperative medication.

According to Prof. Nestoriuc, the results clearly show that individual expectations influence the severity and frequency of side effects. It also shows that a targeted psychological accompaniment of hormone therapy after breast cancer surgery is necessary. After all, side effects are a key factor that helps women to discontinue hormone therapy and thus reduce their chances of survival.

The research group is currently investigating the means by which the expectations of patients can best be positively influenced. The testing includes psychological and medical counseling and information, as well as teaching strategies to manage side effects without any major impact on quality of life.

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